– Hello! Today, we're diving into an overview of a remarkable high-stakes poker hand from January 2024. Joining us is Alexey "AvrOra", a seasoned high-stakes regular, who will help us break down the action. Welcome!

– Hi, everyone!

– It seems like 2024 has barely started, yet we've already witnessed what could be the hand of the year. The audacious call with 10 high, reminiscent of Kudinov's legendary move against Fedor Holz, has introduced us to two fresh faces in the high-stakes scene.

Alexey, could you shed some light on these players? And is there ever a good reason to call with 10 high?

– Indeed, this hand has sparked considerable buzz on Twitter and extensive discussions on the 2+2 poker forum. Chris Nguyen, a relatively new yet promising player, has recently ventured into high-stakes poker. Although we haven't covered him in our previous discussions, it's known that he has connections with several German players, suggesting he might be German or Austrian. My first encounter with Chris was about a year ago when he approached me for a currency exchange, revealing his WPN nickname. Now, he's actively participating in GGPoker games.

To the best of my knowledge, he's around 21 years old. His play in this particular hand was nothing short of spectacular, appearing almost reckless to onlookers unfamiliar with the intricacies of straddles and re-straddles, which effectively reduced the game to an effective stack of 12 big blinds (bb). In such a scenario, the margin for error is significantly minimized, making it challenging to commit a substantial mistake in terms of big blinds per hundred hands played.

His opponent, a player from Russia, seems to be more of an enthusiast than a professional, despite displaying a solid understanding of professional play. I've had numerous encounters with him, especially in January, where he was quite active on GGPoker, participating in high-stakes tournaments and cash games, including 20-40k reg wars. His gameplay and strategic decisions, such as bet sizing and range construction, indicate a deep familiarity with poker theory, although it's evident that Espolon plays primarily for enjoyment.

The dynamics of this game, particularly with the effective stack being 12bb due to straddles and re-straddles, create a unique situation. Chris, having placed the last straddle, finds himself in position, making this a heads-up scenario where he acts after Espolon. This setup is akin to a blind versus blind situation in shorter-handed games, with Espolon initiating the action post-flop.

As for consistently winning in games with such short stacks, the answer might seem obvious to seasoned players.

Short Stack in Poker MTT Tournaments + Cash Games

Chris likely approached the game against Espolon with the mindset of competing against a regular, aiming to escalate the stakes to dominate the table. However, without prior knowledge of Espolon's background, Chris was unaware that he was facing an opponent accustomed to high-stakes play, including huge sessions against renowned players like Linus.

Underestimating Espolon's financial resilience was certainly not an option.

This hand analysis covers a unique situation in a heads-up poker game. Chris, who placed the last straddle, is in position.

This means he acts after Espolon. The game's effective stack is just 12 big blinds (bb). Espolon raises first, setting up a dynamic similar to the small blind versus big blind in short-handed games. Espolon bets first on the flop.

The hand gets interesting for several reasons. Chris makes a bold move by calling with 10-high. This is after a continuation bet on an ace-queen-ace board. This decision is risky, maybe even a mistake. On the turn, Espolon checks. Chris decides to bluff, aiming to push out weaker hands. He bets $325, less than the $400 blind.

Espolon doesn't fold – but raises instead. He seems to think Chris's hand represents little. Chris then faces a decision. He wonders what hand Espolon could have that would check-raise here. A Queen would likely bet or check-call. So, Espolon's move doesn't make much sense. Despite this, Chris sticks with his bluff and calls with 10 high.

This play might seem crazy, but there's logic behind it.

Remember, they're playing with only 12bb stacks. It's unlikely either player has an ace. They would have likely gone all-in pre-flop with such hands. The action suggests both players are bluffing with weak hands. In this scenario, both players' actions are hard to believe. They're not convincingly representing strong hands.

In poker, sometimes the player who pushes the hardest wins. This hand is a perfect example of that principle.

Here, it was Chris, who closed the action and won with a 10 high. Indeed, as accurately noted on Twitter and 2+2, this might just be the hand of the year.

It was a crazy bluff that amounted to nothing, met with a call that had nothing to back it up, resulting in a win with nothing more than a 10 high.

– By the way, I have another question. Espolon plays anonymously on GG. In your opinion, who is the best player on GG who regularly plays but hasn't revealed their real name? I think I know your answer, but I'll hold off on saying it just yet. It seems obvious.

– The answer is simple. Clearly, it's Davy Jones, one of the strongest players in the world.

He's been unlucky on GG, losing quite a bit without revealing his real name. So, it's probably Davy Jones. There's really no one else to mention. Nowadays, real names are disclosed quite quickly.

Generally, if you see a player without a real name, they're likely not very good. The only exception is Davy Jones. Or, in cases where the player has just started on GG and hasn't played there before. They might get a real name, they might not. But that's not the point. The fact is, if a player has been at the high stakes for a long time without a real name, they're probably not playing very well. The only exception, of course, is Davy Jones. We demand a real name for Davy Jones.

No, we don't really demand it, because that would mean he'd start winning everything again on GGPoker. We've had enough of that. I'm against it!

GGPoker is a Hold’em and Omaha focused site on the Good Game Network. Offering a broad range of playing formats such as Randomised Sit & Gos, All-in or Fold, and 6+ Short Deck as well as fast cash games, and a plethora of tournament series including: GGMasters, Multi Millions and Bounty Hunters.

– Well, sooner or later, it might happen.

– Let's continue with Chris Nguyen. His joy over his incredible hero call was short-lived, as he found himself in a heads-up match with another player from Russia, Gia Yakobishvili. It could be said that Gia avenged Espolon. Gia is a regular, and in January, he played a lot and actively streamed on Twitch. He's been given a streamer account, and there's a link to his stream in his profile. Unfortunately, the stream records aren't saved, but you can subscribe and watch his high-stakes battles online.

He gives action to everyone, playing from $5K to $100K with the world's strongest players. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. And here, he effectively sent the young athlete back to NL2000 and below, as they were playing NL10K. I believe they even played at 10K and 20K stakes and Giya won a lot from him. It all ended with a magnificent hero call with Ace-high, where Gia called a bluff from Chris in a 300bb pot.

Chris portrayed his bluff rather narrowly.

Chris check-raised the flop, overbet the turn, and overbet-shoved the river, representing only a full house. I watched Gia live on the stream. Gia mentioned that Chris essentially represented nothing but a full house, suggesting we could go to showdown with almost anything since Chris had many bluffs. Not wanting to fold, Gia decided to call. Chris immediately ended his game, apparently out of money for a rebuy.

As often happens in poker, Gia managed to beat Chris Nguyen. However, against one of the strongest players, Taisto Janter, at NL100,000, Gia's luck didn't hold.

He attempted a super large bluff without equity and was met with an unexpected, incredible call off the ranges with K-7. In a very non-obvious situation, it was unclear how Taisto found this hero call. This was a tough call, but Taisto was correct; Gia was bluffing out of the ranges. This served as a harsh punishment because Taisto didn't fold a hand he potentially could have at any street except perhaps the flop.

Taisto is known for his hero calls in big pots, a skill he has honed over a long time, dating back to active play on PokerStars.

PokerStars starting out holding online poker games back in 2001 and now the company is worth over 6 billion dollars. They sponsor a slew of tournaments like the European Poker Tour, UK and Ireland Poker Tour, plus a handful of others. Over the years, PokerStars has remained on top of the online poker industry. They’ve expanded to offer fantastic online casino games and sports betting.

Taisto excels at choosing situations for hero calls. As someone who isn't super aggressive, I've noticed Taisto has a knack for sensing when opponents are bluffing, especially with costly bluffs. This skill was evident in this situation, as the river call was justifiable, but the most non-obvious moment was his three-quarter bet call on the turn. This call was a big assumption and could have been disastrous if his read on Gia's range was incorrect. Given the board's texture, full of monster draws and combo draws, calling with K-7 was risky.

However, Taisto's assumption was correct and it was very subtle, making it a very tough but successful call.

– I agree and in general, this is a very interesting part of his game. I remember how you played a reg war with Enlight and MunEZ about a year ago. Enlight kept calling your bets and did not see a single bluff. And Taisto, as I understand it, sees you bluffing from time to time, at least. This makes me think: why do you show bluffs to him, but not to our dear Vitya?

– Let's keep this a secret.

– In the last video, you talked about Davy's strong side, that he is very good at fast play with value hands where it is necessary. I also remembered then that we had been analyzing hands with Gambler14, and he had told me the same thing about Davy's fast play. Moreover, I know for sure that you and I definitely have not discussed it yet. Is this such an obvious part of Davy's game, or is it just a coincidence?

– To be honest, I don't remember; maybe it was me who told Kostya about this. Most likely, as it often happens in poker, in any sport, and probably in life in general, like one famous Bruce Lee quote says: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Here it's the same. The right play... or no, it's better to say a fast play of strong hands in the right situations probably doesn't sound very difficult. However, this skill can be practiced for a long, long time. That is, this, one might say, is also Davy's signature feature. Undoubtedly, he does it very well, in the right situations. And, as it often happens, everyone knows about it, but they can't do anything about it. That is, yes, this is his signature move, which everyone is aware of, but everyone gets knocked out by it. It's like Pereira in the UFC, or the similar story with Manny Pacquiao in boxing. It's all about the same. Everyone understands what they should be wary of, but they still lose.

Of course, this is not the only strong aspect of Davy's game. Overall, he is a very balanced and good player. However, we can say that he performs really great when it comes to fast play of strong hands in suitable situations.

– I agree, this really could be called a signature feature because, as it often happens, you study someone else's database, see a cool feature, and, of course, go try it immediately. And it so happens that I just always look at the nuts. It's like you're sitting there, thinking, he has a combo-draw, shove your medium value, see the nuts, and so on.

– That's why you're not Davy.

January 2024 High Stakes Results (Starting with "Tobias Dudd1" in 10th)

It's worth noting that Taisto, just like Davy, started the year very well and played quite actively. You can see that Taisto is in sixth place, having won $200,000 in pure EV, which is a good result.

– Since we're talking about players' signature moves... I think it would be interesting to hear, so here we have the top 10 of the month, and I know that Markkos Ladev inflates the pots, Barak always has the nuts, but jokes aside, what signature move does each of the players have, in your opinion?

– This, of course, will be a little exaggerated, but we can really highlight the strong sides of each player, probably even the strongest one. It will probably even be objective in some sense. In tenth place, we have Tobias Duthweiler, who played actively in January. In general, his last year did not end very well; he lost a lot from his peak, so he started this year working hard. Apparently, he set goals for himself. Basically, I would note that he played cheaper and tried to play 5K more.

Talking about the strong side of Tobias, we can probably highlight, well, this may coincide a lot with someone, but we can highlight his large bluffs in straight lines. It feels like he loads quite a lot of money using such straight lines like bet-over-bet-allin, and check-raise-bet-all-in. So, in general, he plays such lines very frequently and usually, there are not only a lot of value but also a lot of bluffs. He tries to put his opponent into an all-in situation. Well, some players like some kind of 200 IQ lines, some kind of check-check, check-raise, and then big overbet.

For example, the next player, Kevin Paque (TaxHere); this is exactly what he likes. That is, some sort of non-standard, delayed line, when the opponent does not expect an all-in, and, suddenly, he gets put into this kind of situation. That is, he prefers a very tricky way to put his opponent into an all-in.

And Tobias seems to do this in a much more direct way. In other words, an opponent expects an all-in from him on the river. But still, Tobias does it correctly, balances his range with value hands, very wisely chooses bluffs with blockers in order to ideally block opponents' calls, and unblock their folds. And this is probably his strong side. At least that's what immediately comes to my mind. To be honest, I did not prepare for these questions. This is a little improvisation.

However, I think players who have played a lot with Dudd1 (this is Tobias’ nickname on Stars), will agree with me, that he, perhaps, plays such straight lines more often than the average reg. He puts opponents into all-in situations by such plays more often than the average reg of these limits.

9th Place: Kevin "TaxHere" Paque

In ninth place, we have TaxHere.

Last year, or to be more precise, at the end of the last year, it seems to me that he took more rest and lost his shape. He has already appeared at the tables this year. And I’ll be honest with you, Kevin is probably the most mysterious player for me. To be honest, I don’t understand what he’s doing. His strength likely lies in his ability to make very subtle folds.

In other words, this is a player who does not pay off easily. For me, such players are the most difficult opponents because you pay them, but they don't pay you. The game becomes harder for you. You need to correctly find spots for over-bluffing.

How to do this is also not so obvious because he may only wait for these moments where it is necessary for you to bluff. Again, in situations where you don't have enough bluffs, he won't pay you anything. In situations where you do have bluffs, he will make good calls there. He is a difficult opponent, and it’s hard to highlight something special. Perhaps, it will be the same ability I've mentioned earlier – the ability to put you into an all-in unexpectedly. But we could probably see this ability among other players on the list too. This is not a unique feature. Overall, Kevin is probably the toughest opponent on this list for me in terms of understanding what he can do because I don't understand some things at all.

There was an interesting hand with him in January. Let me show it. There was another big game with Mr. Colorfull, a famous Chinese VIP amateur. And here it’s also unclear what Mr. Kevin is doing. Well, it’s okay to raise off the ranges from the button, for example, when the amateur is on the big blind, we want to open wider from the button; this is the right strategy. But why does he four-bet him after that, why does he ship the stack?

Basically, having low equity on the texture, where there are a million strong draws that dominate him, he’ll just go having 2-3 outs against a pair with a flush draw, maybe a little more, considering that he has a gutshot. Why even four-bet a VIP, who almost never folds to four-bets?

Well, he does fold, let’s say, with great reluctance.

All in all, I don’t always understand what Kevin is doing, but the fact remains. Perhaps, we are just leveling, and the answer is simpler – Kevin is simply not in shape right now. But the fact remains that I don’t quite understand how he constructs ranges.

In my opinion, this hand is just a poorly played hand.

It seems to me that the turn all-in has negative EV, and... Well, the continuation bet on the flop is probably good; that is, if we ended up in this situation, the flop continuation bet definitely has positive EV with the Ace of hearts. It’s a good texture, where all amateur’s connectors have missed, in other words, this is surely the right continuation bet.

EV in Poker: How to Calculate Your Expected Value

But the pre-flop 4-bet and this shove on the turn, in my opinion, are quite dubious.

However, this hand did not prevent Kevin from ending up in ninth place.

8th Place: Ignacio "Nacho12441" Moron

– I see Nacho in eighth place, and it is very good to see him, considering that last year did not go very well for him. And as far as I know, they are working on a game with Davy Jones. Well, Davey is one of the best players in the world, objectively. How is it possible that one partner is in the top 10, and the other is not doing so well? Although, well, I like Nacho as a player, and I think he is a pretty strong and experienced player with a big playing distance.

– Well, it's actually not that obvious how much they work together. I know that they were friends, but now it’s not so obvious; maybe now they are not, who knows. But, indeed, Nacho had a very unsuccessful last year; he lost several million. The live games were unsuccessful too, although he participated in all Tritons, well, not all, but he took part in some Tritons and other high-stakes series. So it was a really bad year, and we're glad to see him on the list.

Maybe this is not such a big result; by his standards, it is quite modest but still pleasant. As they say, a winner is a winner, so we congratulate Nacho.

Answering your question, well, objectively, I think Nacho understands that he plays weaker than Davy. At the same time, surprisingly, he plays weaker technically, but more riskily, against stronger opponents, in tougher lineups.

Basically, Nacho plays without any selection with everyone, with almost everyone, and simultaneously. I would call him the Spanish Enlight, except that Vitya is still technically stronger, in my opinion. In addition, it seems to me, Nacho has problems with psychological aspects too. You can see that this downswing…again, it is easy to play well when you are dealt cards well. When you are dealt poorly, it's very difficult to continue performing at the same high level. I am sure that if Nacho gets into a good run, gets into even better shape, maybe he will perform even better than both Davey and Vitya will.

Downswing in Poker: Find Ways to Break the Cycle

But at the moment, there were clearly a lot of technical mistakes in his game, and I think this was due to the bad run and poor psychology. Objectively, he got a little woozy. I saw sessions where he played, one might say, trying to win it back in some sense. Therefore, this is the result...

Well, this probably aggravated his unfortunate run. But, nevertheless, he is a great guy himself. He is also young. And I think he’ll still get out of this downswing and crush it. Because, again, he has everything needed to be a top high-stakes winner.

Answering your question about the signature aspects of Nacho’s game, it’s probably worth mentioning the incredible number of hands played. Yes, this is a little different from what you might have expected, but playing distance is very important. As Dyrdom1 once said: “Just practice very much,” although he spoke about the Rubik's cube, this also applies to poker. This quote is something Nacho could relate to.

Probably, if you take the past 5 years, Nacho will be the top player in terms of hands played at high stakes. If we look at who played the most hands at NL5K+ over the last 5 years across all rooms, Ignacio Moron will be in first place.

And this says a lot. Therefore, he must take advantage of it. He has this experience. Therefore, probably, his strong point is his colossal experience, and colossal playing amounts of hands. In addition, he can play a lot of tables simultaneously. This is also good. I suppose Nacho's strength is his ability to play a lot and cover unbelievable distances.

7th and 2nd Place: Linus "LLinusLLove" Loeliger

In seventh place, we have Linus, and there is such a legend about him that at least at his peak, he was an ideal adherent of GTO. I remember even on the GipsyTeam there was an article where they analyzed his hand, in which he had called with one and a half combinations, some very unobvious ones. It matched the solver, and everyone was like, Linus learned everything there, learned the solver. How true is this?

Well, it's probably worth noting that Linus is not in seventh place. He is in both seventh and second places. And if you add it up, it turns out that he is in first place. That's why Linus is truly our champion.

As I already mentioned, over the span of a year, Linus has gotten into incredible form. He started the year poorly, but as the year progressed. This also happens in chess when a player, it would seem, has passed his peak and begun to decline, and then it is as if he has caught a second wind. And perhaps something like that has happened with Linus because, well, he is playing very well now.

Linus is in top form, it seems to me, maybe even in the best shape of his career.

Answering his signature aspects and the fact that he is a GTO genius, it seems to me that this is not so. I always thought it was a myth. Linus has quite a lot of exploits in the game. That is, even the old Linus, who was supposed to be a GTO genius, had an incredibly bold split of bet sizing. That is, in some sizes, he simply had no bluffs, in others, he had only bluffs. In other words, how can such a player be a GTO genius? No. This is more of a person who simply understands very well how the game plays and builds his range correctly. He may be a GTO genius because, anyway, Linus understands the equilibrium very well.

But in the game, he deviates quite a lot, and makes quite a lot of assumptions.

Linus had a very successful start in January. Yes, maybe he didn’t play many hands, but by his standards, it was normal. Believe me, he often sat in the lobby, holding the highest tables. Great start to the year. I think he's pleased with the result.

GTO Poker Teaches You To Play More Profitably

– I have such nostalgic memories of Linus and GTO. I remember the story of his first limit climb; he went to Malta and worked a lot there with a solver, allegedly, at least. And now I realize that it was almost 10 years ago, or even more.

Yes, time flies very fast, that’s a fact. What exactly he was doing there in Malta, of course, no one will ever know.

Nevertheless, Linus played a lot in those years, and he got to the high stakes pretty quickly. In general, I’ve already talked a lot about that in the interview. However, basically, we can say that it was my efforts that got him there because I lost a lot to Linus at 1k-2k, and I can say that I personally, brought him to the high stakes.

– By the way, perhaps Linus’s most important feature is not something very outstanding, but the stability and the ability to maintain a high level of performance over the years because quite a lot of people have already ended their careers at high stakes.

– In my opinion, Linus is simply incredibly smart. In general, here they are, together with OTB_ RedBaron, I think, just have a very high IQ.

He is generally a very good and strong logician. He understands how it should be, he understands the equilibrium well and knows how to deviate from it. He has a lot of his own features in the game. He understands which sizes to use and where to overbluff, and where not to bluff. I mean, he's actually a very, just a very smart player overall. And now, when he is in good shape, he is downright scary at the tables.

Looking ahead, we will soon have an analysis of Linus' hands from GipsyTeam, and there you can look in more detail. I’ll tell you…well, I don’t know what kind of hands will be there at this analysis yet, but over the past year, especially over the last half, Linus had a lot of masterfully played hands.

6th Place: Taisto "SyrW_Helmets" Janter

Taisto, as we have already mentioned, is in sixth place and has had a great start to the year. Well, as we basically started with this and moved on to this topic, his strong point, I’m absolutely sure, is making big calls. His percentage of successful big calls is off the charts—absolutely incredible.

I think, all in all, he is top 1 among the others because it’s really... Well, it happens that he loses, of course. Perhaps this is due to selective memory, you know.

I remember a few against me personally. The call against Gia. I also remember he played against Linus at the NL100k falling apart table. And he got the stack from Linus the same way. It was also an huge hero-call with blockers.

This hand was in the review with Ilya Gorodetskiy. Maybe we will insert a screenshot.

And I can tell you that Taisto’s strong point is, precisely, the big pot bluff catchers.

5th Place: Matthew Bergart (pmachnie)

– And we have a relatively new face in the top, at least I don’t remember him making it last year. Matthew Bergard, please tell us who this player is because I'm looking at 23 thousand hands, and even considering that it is filtered with NL1k inclusively, well, that's impressive by high-stakes standards.

– Yes, there is actually a lot to be said about Matthew. He's been playing poker for quite a long time, let's say and he has an interesting story. This is a young player, now in his 20s. He started playing poker at almost 16, if not 15.

A Canadian MikeyPR of sorts and he started playing at PokerStars.He had the nickname pmachnie and some small statistics on him have been preserved here.

You see – Last online: 5 years ago. His journey ended ingloriously; he was banned. Everyone reported him because they suspected that he was playing with RTA, and that his game was suspiciously GTO-oriented. To be honest, after a while, he sort of posted proof that he had been banned not for using RTA, but just for playing from someone else’s account because he was, like, under 18.

It was true; he really was under 18 at that moment. Well, if we calculate, it turns out that he is around 23 now or so. Maybe even less. Well, never mind.

The fact is that, according to the proof he provided, he was really banned not for having a prompter, but for violating the age restriction. However, it was very suspicious. There were moments because of which many were sure that pmachnie was somehow cheating. Because there were several very suspicious patterns in his game, I remember. And people from our community strongly suspected him. And there were even people who tried to use some kind of special play against him, as against a bot. Because in some situations, his play seemed very unhuman. However, no one has any evidence.

Well, now, I think... Maybe there was some kind of an obscure story there. Now he definitely plays fair I’m sure of that. Because at the moment his game is very far from equilibrium.

So, he ended his performance at Stars ingloriously. Next came a performance on WPN.

Americas Cardroom is a popular poker room with over twenty years of history. Since 2011, it has been part of the Winning network, known for its soft fields with americans and canadians.

He played under a different nickname on GG, under the real name. He created an account using his friend’s ID. As I understand it, he explained it by the fact that when he started playing there, he was also under 18 and blah-blah-blah. Eventually, he was banned there too.

Both accounts, WPN and GG, were reported, and both were banned with confiscation. Accordingly, he has not yet been unbanned on WPN and he cannot play on WPN. On GG, they banned that old account of his, but they seemed to allow him, they believed him, and they allowed him to create a new one. So here is Matthew Bergard, this is his new account, which he has been using to play for the last couple of years.

He was number one in terms of hands played last year. Plays well, plays strong, plays with everyone. I think he plays fair, at least now, over the past year. What he has done in his youth is no longer so obvious. This is the time now, you know, you can’t be sure of anyone. If you know what I mean. But it seems to me that Matthew plays fair.

If we rank players in terms of the distance played over the last year, Matthew confidently takes first place. Not just takes, but confidently. The difference is almost 30%—a significant gap from second place. And the gap from third place is even larger. Accordingly, that is an incredible playing distance. An incredible playing distance, playing with everyone.

Don't be misled by the small win rate shown here. In fact, if you play mostly NL5K with everyone, showing even such a win rate is an amazing result. It's funny that he has been given several warnings for bumhunting.

Based on this, we can assume that GG’s bumhunt determining system is poor. Because if a player has played the most hands by a large margin, well, he can’t be a bumhunter, because who is everyone else then? Who are all these people then? Even if I played 70,000, who's all... Well, you probably won’t show me scrolling, but the point is that who is everyone else if the number one, in their opinion, is a bumhunter. The system is clearly not working well.

However, it seems like we, the high-stakes community, stood up for him a little, because the man has already suffered enough, having been banned everywhere. It was not clear whether it was fair or not, but in my opinion, I’ll be honest, playing under 18 is not some kind of brutal violation, just like playing with a VPN, after all, it doesn’t violate any direct rules. Therefore, they probably harass poor young Matthew in vain. That is why we have, so to speak, stood up for him a little and we hope that he will not be given any more warnings for bumhunt. Because, well, this is absolutely not good, at least this warning, he can be suspected of something else, but definitely not bumhunting.

If we talk about Matthew’s strong side, then it’s probably playing distance, probably playing distance, of course. Well, in general, about a year ago he played worse, he lost a lot to Vitya Enlight in heads-up. But now, he has begun to play much better, that is, now he has begun to make subtle folds. That is, in general, he is now a very formidable opponent, he has excellent results, he controls the tables. To be honest, it’s hard to say what his signature feature is. It’s hard to say.

It’s possible, probably…as I said, about Kevin, when I was talking about Tobias, that he is able to bluff in non-standard situations, where many people don’t have bluffs. In other words, he tries to choose situations for bluff where the player pool as a whole does not bluff a lot. Yes, this is a very general phrase, I understand. You can say the same about many. Everyone is trying to do this. Any player tries to bluff where others call little to make it work better. But Matthew may be better at this than others. This is probably how I would answer if you really forced me to choose something, but it's, like, not one hundred percent true. Overall, it’s again difficult for me to name his strengths. Perhaps his strong point is that he is still very young. One might say, everything is ahead of him.

4th Place: Barak

– In fourth place, we have Barak. And anticipating the answer that Barak doesn’t do anything bad at the tables, although this is actually a strong point, it would be interesting to find out what good he does at the tables.

– Actually, yes, it also sounds very simple, but as I have said many times, the most complex things often sound simple. On the contrary, try to find a player whose database you will not find gross mistakes in. Straight-up EV loss. It will take a lot of effort. Barak's game is very stable, very... Just stable. High-quality game.

As simple as it sounds, still it is...far from simple. That's what he does well, which is to say, he doesn't play bad. That is, try to catch him playing off the ranges, a crazy play off the ranges that didn’t work or worked.

You won’t see Barak playing like that. That is, Barak plays more seamless, more logical poker. That is, he bluffs where he seems to have a lot of value, where there are few bluffs, he chooses only the best. That is, in fact, he has such a seamless, stable game without any bullshit. And this, probably makes him almost one of the best players in the world. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s far from a small thing.

From the outside, it seems that Barak actually has a very good learning ability, because it seems like he has started to play cash at the high stakes not so long ago, but at the same time we constantly see him at the top, he is always one of the top winners there, and it seems to me, that this is not a coincidence.

Well, after all, in my opinion, objectively, Barak is dealt cards incredibly well. You cannot have a win rate at NL40k+ of 20bb per 100 unless you're lucky. But it’s worth noting—and by the way, yes, here I agree with other strong players—it would be interesting to see Barak when the cards start coming his way less favorably. Will his game withstand a strong downstreak? No offense to Barak, just as a poker player, maybe a reviewer, a player too, of course, I don’t wish him a downstreak, but as someone who analyzes the play of other strong professionals, I'm curious to see if Barak's game would falter or not.

It just hasn't happened yet.

It's easy to play when you're being dealt well. It’s clear that when the strongest player is also being dealt one and a half times more nuts, he will dominate. I would like to see him when he's dealt fewer nuts than necessary, when his opponents have a stronger flush.

Barak plays actively. So, we probably will see it this year, maybe it will happen this year, who knows.

– Well, personally, Barak appeals to me. And, by the way, talking about a flush over flush, I remember once, many years ago, they said about one famous player that he was being dealt well. It was Baron. I vividly remember the story of the Invoker, how he researched Baron's base and did not understand how he constantly coolered a flush into a flush. And then somehow they sorted it out and realized that here Baron knocked out the backdoors stronger, here Baron left the backdoors weaker and then got coolered a flush into a flush. Maybe Barak has a similar story. I would like to believe that this is not just an upswing.

– Maybe yes. You are telling me my story.

3rd Place: Ivan "ja.sam.gale" Galinec

One of the strongest players in the world, ranked third, and has won a lot on WPN. He didn’t perform so well on GG, but… Super top reg, again, discussed him a lot in the last video.

He plays well heads-up, regwars, and full tables. I don’t know if we could name this as his strong point, but he probably has the most non-standard bet-sizes of all those listed here. That is, he really likes some kind of low preflop sizes and underbets. He tries to make the game as non-standard as possible, as much as possible, and somehow outplay his opponent.

In other words, he is like Stefan but only Stefan is now, objectively, in bad shape, but this man is in good shape. You could say he took what was strong from Stefan and improved it. Therefore, probably, his strong point is the ability to drive his opponent into some non-standard pots, non-standard SPR. Here you are playing a 3-bet pot with him, and you have some kind of a pot on the flop, like 12 blinds.

In a situation, let's say, BB vs Button. And you're sitting there, thinking that you have never played BB vs BU 3bet pot with 12BB on the table in your life. That is, usually there are either 20BB or more, or some kind of single raise pot with 6 BB, yes. But somewhere in between you don’t have such practice at all. And you have little understanding about the ranges, what they look like and well, how exactly to implement equity.

The SPR is very uncomfortable, as if it’s neither here nor there.

It's like you're sitting between a rock and a hard place, like they said in a well-known expression. And it’s not clear what to do, but your opponent seems to suppress you during the hand. This is probably Gale’s strong point and Stefan does the same. That is, it’s not like something new…just Stef in my opinion, Stef is not in the best shape right now, so it's, kind of, a little easier to execute this playing with him. You can, so to say, always expect some kind of a gift, a big one, yes, a New Year’s gift, let’s say, of 100 BB or more. And you can't expect it from Gale.

1st Place: Markkos "MakuFz" Ladev

In first place, in pseudo first place, because in first, as I said, if you add it up, Linus will be in first. But in this table in first place is Markkos Ladev, one of the strongest players from Estonia, so, probably, he, along with Taisto Janter, are probably the two strongest cash players from Estonia by a wide margin.

Markkos had a good year. He played high-stake tournaments, played high-stake cash games, and did well. Even played NL100k. As far as I know, he is selling his action.

Nevertheless, he is still playing strongly. He is kind of a poker gigachad, playboy, and philanthropist, that beats everyone and everywhere, both offline and online.

As they say, kudos to the great guy. Plays well. What can I say? He plays really strong. Fights a lot for the pots. He’s also not afraid to bluff without equity.

Just as in anime where everything was stolen from Evangelion, the same happens in poker—everyone stole everything from Stefan or Baron.

Markkos’ play is very flexible. He is not afraid to play hard and risk looking like a fool. I try to deal with it myself, but I’ve probably already had this over the years of my career, well, I’ve learned to deal with it. Many players experience this and Markkos certainly does not suffer from it; he’s not afraid to look like a fool.

If it is necessary, if he believes that a bluff-shove without equity, without blockers, without everything, has positive expectations, and he feels that he needs to bluff, Markkos will not be afraid to bluff. Therefore, it’s probably worth noting his aggressive, tough playstyle.

What probably distinguishes him from other players is his good table selection. He only plays at those tables where he has a significant advantage. And at the same time, he plays well. He is a difficult opponent for everyone.